Jul 23, 2016

Shhh! She's hiding!!!

Puppy? What puppy? I don't see a puppy!

Jul 22, 2016

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Beric the Briton

I am not an auditory learner, and neither are my kids. So audio books are not a staple in our school. However, when the story is just too good to pass up, and the production is too well-done to miss, then we do listen just for the fun of it. And what is it that is so good, so quality, so enjoyable that we all eagerly crowd around to hear? Why, none other than Heirloom Audio Productions, of course! 

We have reviewed for them before (I linked those reviews at the bottom of this post) so we were excited to receive their latest release, Beric the Briton

Now first, I need to explain that Heirloom Audio Productions doesn't make just plain old audio books, which are books read aloud. Their stories are adventures with background music, sound effects, and different actors for different voices. It's a full-fledged theater without the visual aspect. 

Heirloom Audio takes G. A. Henty stories, tales of adventure, that inspire courage, selflessness, honesty, and faithfulness, and produces a quality performance that even us visual folks can appreciate and enjoy. 

Beric The Briton Heirloom Audio Productions  Review

This latest tale, the story of Britain's attempt to throw off the rule of Rome, is set around the fictional tale of a young chieftain, Beric the Briton but involves many real life Historical people, including: Queen Boadicea, Nero, the Apostle Paul, and even Jesus (although He is only talked about as this story takes place after His death). 

As is usual in Henty's tales, there is high adventure, battles, danger, acts of courage and bravery, but there is also spiritual depth, sacrificial acts, love shown to enemies, and the overcoming of self with the strength that comes from a relationship with God.

I love my children hearing these stories of unflinching courage in high adrenaline situations and deliberate bravery where the character chooses the right way instead of the easy way.

My kids enjoy the suspense of a good tale, the humor that is weaved throughout, and the satisfying good ending.

We all appreciate the high quality of the production, the high profile of the actors who do the voices (Mom! Mom! It's Dr. Who!!!!) and the overall excellence of the work as a whole.

In addition to the CD, we received a handful of bonus products that we downloaded. 
  • a lengthy behind-the-scenes video that intrigued my kids
  • a beautiful poster of lions in the Colosseum with an inspiring quote
  • a cast poster
  • MP3 downloads of Beric the Briton
  • a beautiful full-color PDF of the original Henty story
  • a recipe for Celtic oatcakes
  • a study guide

It's the study guide that I want to talk about now. Every Heirloom Audio story comes with a study guide and they add so very much to the experience. I prefer the old method of putting a physical copy in the CD, because I like to hold them in my hand to use them with the kids. The guides are full-color, which is beautiful but there's no way I could afford to print them! So we read them off the computer or the iPad when I get around to shifting the PDF over to it.

The study guide contains bits of historical information, complete with pictures that pulls the kids in deeper into the actual history of the story. It also offers vocabulary words, a few activities like recipes, and lots and lots of questions. These questions are divided into the tracts of the CD so you can ask them at the end of your listening time wherever you happen to stop. 

The questions are also divided into Listening Well and Thinking Deeper categories. Listening Well questions are comprehension sort of questions like "What plunder does Beric rescue from the city?" and  "Where do the British chiefs meet after the battle?"

Thinking Deeper questions require the kids to think a little harder. Some examples of these questions are, "The Britons' war against the Fens was long in the past. Why would the Fens still hate and fear the Britons in Beric's day? Do you think most people feel and think like this? How can such long lived resentment be overcome?" and "What moves Beric to rescue the Romans? Is this consistent with what we have seen of his character so far? Explain."

For Beric the Briton, we divided out listening into three different sections. Each time, I just gauge when the kids are starting to get restless and we turn it off at the end of the tract. I know a lot of people listen in their car, but we don't spend that much time driving. So I have the kids choose quiet things to do: Lego, drawing, coloring, dolls, etc. and we just listen for awhile. When we are done, we go over the questions for that section.

The kids say:

Kaytie: One thing I like about these is that they are not just reading. There are sounds in the background that help you visualize what's going on. I like how they started the story as a letter, because I think it's alluding to the next story by mentioning that he is going to Egypt and because it is a different way of starting than the others we have listened to. 

Nate: It was a good story. It seems to mostly be about the conversion to Christianity for Britain. There was a lot of war, too. Lots of fighting. I like the war bits! They burned down an entire town which was cool. 

Daniel: I liked that it was inspiring and taught a lot about Jesus. I liked the part where they fought the battles. The mushy parts were blech and gross. (Mom note: There is always a love story, but it is always clean, respectful, and appropriate.)

Abbie: I liked when they were fighting the lion in the Colosseum. That was my favorite part because it was so exciting. I liked that they were willing to die for Jesus. I also liked that he saved the man and his son from drowning even though they were his enemies. 

This was one of my favorites of Heirloom Audio Productions. British history is a love of mine and I really appreciated how the story intertwined with both Roman and Biblical history. I loved the references to Paul and Jesus. And of course, I loved the snippets of humor scattered around. We have listened to all the Henty stories that Heirloom Audio has put out so far, and loved every single one. You can read our reviews of them by clicking the links below

In Freedom's Cause

With Lee in Virginia

The Dragon and The Raven

Under Drake's Flag

Beric The Briton Heirloom Audio Productions  Review

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Jul 16, 2016


When we were camping a few weeks ago, this mountain was across the road from our campsite. The kids asked to climb it and initially I said "yes" because I prefer to say "yes" more than "no".

However, right after the last picture was taken, Nate lost his footing and flew back down the mountainside. This scared us all so much that they did not climb up there again.

Jul 12, 2016

Schoolhouse Review Crew: ArtAchieve

There are two things that we never get enough of around here, science and art. We all love both but the boys tend to get more excited about the science while Kaytie is all about the art. She was especially thrilled to get a chance at art lessons from ArtAchieve. We were given access to Entire Level II.

Art Lessons for Children ArtAchieve Review

ArtAchieve is an online site that offers drawing lessons. These lessons are based on the idea that drawing is a skill that can be taught, not just a gift that some people happen to be born with. The lessons are designed to give the student a chance to succeed at drawing something recognizable, but the finished product will be highly individualized and creativity is encouraged.

Once I had our account set up, it was easy for the kids to get on and access the lessons. Each lesson has two parts: a warm up, and then the actual lesson. The warm ups have to be downloaded onto your computer as PDFs to be viewed. You then need to print them out, so the child can use them during the lesson.

The lesson streams online. There are two ways for the student to watch the lesson: a power point that they control, or as an actual video. My kids hands down preferred the power point. Their main complaint with all other art programs is that they have to pause/ rewind/ restart so much because they can't keep up with the video. With the power point, this is no longer an issue because they get to choose when to advance to the next slide.

The first lesson discusses "line" and gives the kids a few exercises to do to demonstrate. After they finished this lesson, I pretty much let them choose which order they did the other lessons in. They based their choice on what they would be drawing rather than what they might be learning. But that seemed to be ok. My kids have been drawing for awhile and art is kinda fluid for them. It didn't seem to matter what order they did the lessons in.

Each lesson is based on art from a different country. The country and its art techniques are briefly discussed at the beginning of the lesson. The kids are given a goal for the lesson then a list of the supplies they will need. We didn't have any problem with the supplies. It was all simple stuff that we already had: markers, pencils, paper, scissors, watercolors, oil pastels, etc. If you are not an artistic family and/or do not have basic art supplies, then you might want to look over the Supply List provided on the site just to be prepared in advance.

The lessons teach the kids how to easily proportion their drawings correctly. Planning your drawing out beforehand is also taught. After the drawing portion, the kids are led through suggestions/ tips/ ideas on how to add the color to their drawing. It is all very simple and step by step. But this is not a "childish" program. It was simple, easy and fun, but they were not playing. I felt that my kids were learning real art techniques and they definitely were proud of their work when they finished a lesson.

The girls' opinions:

Kaytie: I liked it. It could have been a little more descriptive because it was hard to draw some of the stuff. I just needed more steps sometimes. I liked that it had both the video and the power point so that when the video went too fast I could watch the power point instead. I learned a lot of new techniques and I like that the art was something cool that I could be proud of. It wasn't just a craft for little kids.

Abbie: It was fun. I learned how to do a hidden butterfly. I liked not having not hit the pause button. I liked the art I could make. There was nothing I didn't like.

I liked that the girls learned art techniques and methods without me having to get involved. I always appreciate programs that don't require me to acquire knowledge first. And I liked the emphasis (in every lesson) on encouragement and how it was reiterated that there is no wrong way to do art. My kids can be their harshest critics and mommy encouragement just isn't the same as hearing it from someone else.

Art Lessons for Children ArtAchieve Review
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Jul 7, 2016

Independence Day Fun

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Olim Latin

I am pretty set on my kids learning Latin. They don't seem to care much about it, so I keep trying different things to tempt their appetite for the language. My latest effort was Olim, Once upon a Time in Latin, Reader 1 and Workbook 1 from Laurelwood Books.

These two books are slim paperbacks with pretty, matching covers. They are the first in a series that currently has six levels. The workbook starts off with a pronunciation guide and pronunciation tips for the teacher and a Roman Numerals chart. Then it plunges right into the exercises. The reader has the same guide and chart.

The reader has three stories in it: The Three Little Pigs; The Tortoise and the Hare; and The Crow and the Pitcher. Each story is told first in simple English language and then in Latin. Accompanying the text are simple, but adorable line drawings that truly complement the story. The illustrations are the same in both versions of the story, which helped build continuity for us.

In the Latin version of the story, there are vocabulary words in sidebars on each page.

Olim was really simple to use. The first day, I read aloud one story in both English and Latin. Reading aloud in Latin isn't easy if you don't know the language, but the pronunciation guide helped out a lot.

The second day, I read through the story again in Latin and then re-read the first Latin page. Then we did the first page in the workbook. This consists of eight English words (that appear in the story) to translate into Latin and eight Latin words to translate into English. Then there are three fill-n-the-blank sentences in English. The instructions say to fill in the English word and then translate the sentence into Latin.

The third day we did the "Digging Deeper" section which addresses Latin grammar.

The fourth day, we read the second Latin page in the story and did the corresponding worksheets. The pages you are supposed to do are written on the bottom of each page of the Reader and whenever we came to a Digging Deeper page in the workbook, we just took a day to do that page. Some of the Digging Deeper pages are exercise pages as well.

At the end of each story, there is a "challenge" page in the workbook where you translate English phrases into Latin and a Bible verse from Latin into English.

The workbook is consumable and not reproducible so we "cheated" a bit by the kids doing the exercises out loud as a group and me doing all the writing down in the book. I expect it would be whole lot easier just to have one workbook for each student.

I really enjoyed this method of learning Latin. It seemed more purposeful, like we were learning the language for a reason instead of just memorizing vocabulary and grammar rules. I have heard several people (Latin teachers and parents in favor of teaching their kids Latin) mention something about we learn Latin in order to read it. And this method made it feel like we were actually easily and effortlessly moving toward that goal.

Latin and Penmanship {Laurelwood Books  Review}

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